Bicycle Diaries: Moving memories or yet another reason for a beater

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Moving memories or yet another reason for a beater

In the spirit of yesterday's post Dave, my college buddy from Ohio, is our guest blogger today. I don't think there's anyone else out there who appreciates beaters more. As I've written before, Dave first got me rolling with the Roadmaster he gave me. Much to his wife's chagrin, Dave collects and tools them in an old barn at the back of their farm lot. But it's not just about tooling. For Dave, it's also about the moving memories each beater evokes:
I have this old barn on my property. It has become a receptacle for my many things. Memorabilia that I don’t want to throw (or give) away; things that crowd the corners of my life and still cling to me for their sentimental value. In many ways it’s all just junk, but junk that comes with a story attached.

On a recent drizzly Sunday afternoon Nate, the youngest son, and I decided to take a ride. I’ve never minded riding in the rain or drizzle as long as it’s not too cold. We headed to the barn for our bikes and when I threw open the door I found myself confronted with years of accumulation with very little organization.

The most prominent of artifacts hiding in my barn are the bikes – and not all mine. In the first stall stood two little BMX bikes bought for my sons several years ago. They were purchased from the local discounter because I have this belief that I wasn’t about to purchase an expensive bicycle for the boys until they stopped growing. Both well used and desperately in need of some maintenance. The boys put many miles on the bikes before Ian (the oldest) decided to focus his energies elsewhere and Nate decided he needed a bigger bike.

Standing along side the BMX bikes are a pair of scooters also purchased for the boys back when the Razor scooters were all the rage. Living on a farm with a gravel drive and lots of land, the Razor was not very practical so we purchased scooters with larger, knobby-style tires. At first the boys were a little disappointed but they soon found that the larger tires were better for negotiating the obstacles along the sled-riding hill.

Many of days I would come home from work just in time to witness boys on scooters cruising through the trees from the hayfield above to the gardens below.

Back beyond the scooters is my old three-speed Hercules. I traded a 35mm camera for the bicycle and have never regretted the deal. I have a particular fondness for British three-speeds so when the opportunity presented itself I jumped on with a bit of hesitation. I’ve done some work on the Hercules but it still needs a great deal more restoration. I know I’ll get to it in the future but for now I occasionally pull it out and pedal up and down the driveway like some fancy English gentleman riding along a hedge-lined lane.

Right after the Hercules is the J.C. Higgins, a balloon-tire bicycle I purchased from Free Bikes for Kids. The bike is a late 40’s early 50’s model with a few pieces missing but I don’t mind, it was functioning and I always wanted a good old balloon-tire bike. Free Bikes for Kids was an organization dedicated to finding old bicycles, fixing them up and getting them into the hands off kids who couldn’t afford a bicycle. They felt ashamed that they were charging me $25 for the old beat up J.C. Higgins; I felt ashamed that I couldn’t give them $1,000 for their mission.

Hanging from the posts is a spare set of rims for my Nishiki touring bike, now nearly 20 years old. The bike has become the favorite of Nate who loves riding it every time we go out, even though the bike is just a little too tall for him. He insists on using the older leather strap toe clip and pedal combination I installed shortly after I purchased the bike at an auction. I had originally purchased it for my wife but she too was too short to ride it so I used it for touring.

Underneath the spare wheels stands my trusty Specialized hybrid bike. My wife bought it for me when Ian was four and Nate was two. This bike replaced the mountain bike she bought me years earlier – a bike I managed to bounce off the back of my car at 60 mph on a two lane highway. She got me a sturdy bike for riding the rough rural roads and for hauling the boys. For many years we would take rides, first with a child carrier and then with the co-pilot bike trailer. Because I could only take one son at a time, every ride became a double for me. Ian liked to explore the town; Nate preferred the trails. I just enjoyed getting out on a bike with the boys.

In the farthest reaches of the barn are two more bikes. The first is the Joshua bike. So named because it once belonged to my nephew Joshua. He wanted a BMX bike and my brother wanted to buy one for him. But not having much money left my brother at a loss until I found a used Varmit. I fixed it up with new tires, pedals and a set of BMX handbrakes. I acquired the bike after Josh outgrew it. I wanted it so I could ride along with my kids on their BMX bikes.

The other bike, the last one in the barn, is an old chain-drive Colson tricycle from the ‘30’s or ‘40’s, or so I’m guessing. It was purchased to replace a damaged tricycle for the oldest niece who is now 23. When I found the old trike it been hand-painted pink; I stripped it, repainted it red with white accents, straightened the axle and got it back in running shape. The niece had a little cheap Murray tricycle, and she had a habit of leaving it out in the driveway – like any kid. One morning her mother ran over the Murray trike and completely destroyed it. With tears in her eyes the little girl looked from the smashed trike to her mother and said, “That’s okay mom, I still love you.” The niece rode the old trike for many years before returning it for us to keep.

“C’mon dad,” Nate called to me from the open door.

“I’ll be there,” I called back.

Maybe it was the dust in the barn, maybe it was the memories but when I left I was a little misty.

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